When March 30th arrives, Facebook Pages will change forever. Well, knowing Facebook’s track record, things will probably change again. But, at the end of the month, Pages will have the new Timeline design.
While some schools have taken the leap of faith, a few schools are still hanging on to their current pages. While you do have until the end of March to make the switch, I wanted to share some ideas as to how you might improve your school’s Facebook Page.
1. Show off Your Campus
Periodically changing your cover is a best practice in my opinion. Take advantage of your new space and show off your campus to the public. Let your online community see what’s happening on your campus throughout the school year (i.e., seasons on campus, student life, significant events, etc.).
My Alma mater, Marquette University, follows this practice on their university homepage. Their banner photo changes every two weeks to reflect student life, events, and hotspots around campus. This practice is now translated onto their Facebook Page. Not only are you able to visually represent your campus in a new way, but now prospective students can get an idea of what campus might be like. Remember, it’s the first thing people see when they visit your timeline, so make it count.
The other day, I stumbled upon the University of Rochester’s Facebook Page and discovered they recently started running a contest within their online community called “Photo Friday.” Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents can submit photos of how they see the campus. The winner’s photo is placed on their university’s page cover as well as their school’s Wall of Fame.
By allowing your fans to submit their own photos and vote, you not only generate organic content that can be used in other mediums, but also create a “competitive” activity that continues to bring visitors back to your page (and in turn, increases your community’s presence).
3. Student of the Page
Much like Student of the Month programs, my idea is about promoting your students through your Page. I call it “Student of the Page” (cliché, I know). Every month or so, a student would be profiled in the cover containing a photo of himself/herself with a quote as to why they decided to attend or what they enjoy most about going to your school.
As a result, your community can learn what makes your campus special from a student’s perspective, it displays an appreciation for your students, and demonstrates that you’re more than just an employee managing a Facebook account. To give you an idea of what I’m envisioning, I’ve designed one with the University of Kentucky in mind.
4. Pin it!
No, this one’s not about Pinterest! Let’s say a student posts a photo or an article and you don’t want others to miss out. You now have ability to “Pin” posts to the top your page. When you pin a post, it stays at the top of the page for up to seven days.
For instance, if a prospective student posted a photo of themselves with their acceptance letter, everyone who visits your page during that time would see it before anything else. What a great way to recognize a prospective student’s achievement and to make sure that everyone can share in the celebration and congratulate them.
5. “Highlight” Posts
Another new feature in your utility belt is the ability to “Highlight” posts. Highlighted posts are double wide so they take up both columns of the page. The more real estate, the more likely it is that your community will engage with it. I found only a handful of schools who were using this new feature like I hoped. Stanford University was one of them. On their Page, they posted a short video interviewing an incoming freshman who “had dreamed of coming to Stanford since she was in elementary school.”
I recommend highlighting photos from students and the school or videos (i.e. recruiting or commercial) as it’s great content for current and future applicants. You might want to try highlighting and pinning your post to ensure it’s the first thing they interact with.
6. Personal Communication
Now your fans can send you a message directly to your inbox. For example, if a student has a question about financial aid or an upcoming deadline, they can message you instead of writing on your timeline. This will help relieve some of the situations where students find their questions unanswered.
Messaging will help facilitate a personal communication channel between you (the school) and your fans (prospective students, current students, alumni, etc.).
7. Tell Your School’s Story
As I scanned Facebook for schools that published their timelines early, I began to notice a trend. Eighty-six percent of them were missing key moments in their school’s history. Their timelines jumped from “Founded” to the year 2009 when they “Joined Facebook.” Something that’s important to remember about timeline is that it’s about telling your story with posts, pictures, and life events.
There’s no better place to learn more about your school than an interactive tour on your Page from beginning, to middle, to the present. Yale University, a school with over 300 years of history has done an exceptional job of curating their timeline. Did you know the first Frisbee was invented in 1920 at Yale? Neither did I. You can learn more about their history here.
Remember, your timeline is more than just a page now — it’s a story. With Facebook’s new feature-set, you can add substance and dialogue to your online community.
Have you updated to the new Timeline? Will you be ready to update your university page? If you have any of your own ideas, please share below.